Dems launch a defense of climate warming scientists, national laboratories

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Washington, D.C.-, December 20, 2016 | comments

Is a climate-change purge coming to Golden? If you're one of the nearly 1,700 people working at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, you should pay attention to this.

The Trump administration's transition team is asking for the names and other information about who works on climate change, especially those in top positions.

Colorado Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter plans to put up a fight, according to a letter from 26 House Democrats, including Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver, addressed to Trump Tower Monday.

Perlmutter represents the 7th Congressional District, which is home to NREL, the 327-acre research center in Golden that credits itself with a $701 million economic impact on Colorado in 2014, including $276 on Jefferson County. NREL is the sixth-leading employer, just behind Coors, in Jefferson County, where the economic benefit totaled $275 million in 2014. It has a $357 million annual budget.

The letter to Trump was prompted by his transition team - led by Myron Ebell, a Colorado College grad and a fierce opponent of President Obama's climate change policy - asking Energy Department officials to name which of its employees and contractors work on international and domestic programs aimed at cutting carbon output, particularly the top administrators.

"Regardless of one's views on climate change, it is simply inappropriate to target hard-working public servants simply for doing their jobs," the letter states.

Another reading of the situation is that Trump is deciding where he should start whittling down the size of government. The candidate called climate change a hoax. The transition team hasn't publicly answered questions about why it's collecting the names of climate-change workers.

The letter from the Democratic members of Congress states:

"As Members of Congress who represent and/or or sit on committees with jurisdiction over the 17 Department of Energy National Laboratories ("DOE labs"), we write to express our extreme concern over reports your transition team has asked for personal information on their employees and to inform you we will always act to defend them and their scientific freedom.

"Our DOE labs are among the crown jewels of America. Their hard-working, brilliant scientists and researchers are working to solve some of the most pressing and vexing questions and problems we face. These include keeping our nuclear weapons stockpile safe and secure, developing advanced supercomputers, improving the detection of weapons of mass destruction, and creating new ways to produce cleaner energy. What they learn also helps create jobs and grow our economy, goals we all share.

"This is why it was so concerning to learn that your transition team has, according to The Washington Post, asked for "a list of the top 20 salaried employees of the labs, the labs' peer-reviewed publications over the past three years, a list of their professional society memberships, affiliations, and the websites they maintain or contribute to 'during work hours'." This was part of a larger set of questions asking DOE about which employees worked on the issue of climate change.

"Such questions about DOE lab staff are worrisome because they suggest there may be attempts by the incoming Administration to retaliate against them or defund their work, even if blame for the questionnaire is now said to rest with a reportedly "rogue" transition team employee. Regardless of one's views on climate change, it is simply inappropriate to target hard-working public servants simply for doing their jobs. Staff at our DOE labs go where the science takes them, and for that they should be praised, not punished. Should DOE lab employees be improperly subjected to adverse employment actions and then decide to take legal recourse, we will stand as amici curiae to support them.

"Further, as you may know, DOE labs are owned by the government but almost all are operated by contractors. This restricts employment decisions to DOE lab management and should protect the important and well-earned academic freedom of DOE lab staff from political interference. Such scientific integrity is a critical part of the DOE lab structure and something we will work diligently to protect.

"For the forgoing reasons, it is important that we better understand what is being done by your transition team with respect to DOE labs and their recent questions. Please send us the specific questions that were asked of DOE about lab staff, the purpose behind them, and what you plan to do with any information that is learned which addresses these issues.

"Lastly, it may help you to understand our DOE labs better if you saw them firsthand. We would welcome the opportunity to show you in person, at your earliest convenience, the great work being done at any of these tremendous institutions.

"We look forward to your prompt reply."

Content originally published by The Gazette on December 20, 2016.
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